Over 21,000 jobs have been axed or put at risk in the first three months of the year as retailers struggle to break even.
A Press Association analysis revealed that 21,413 staff members have already been made redundant or had their role threatened, with the majority being from large high-street retail chains.
Both Toys R Us and Maplin have filed for administration since January, with stores such as New Look and Select also showing signs of being in troubled water.
Bargain Booze owner Conviviality announced last week it planned to call in administrators, putting a further 2,600 jobs at risk.
Climbing business rates, falling consumer confidence, Brexit-fuelled inflation have all been named as reasons for the crippling retail outlook.
Duncan Brewer, a partner at the consultancy Oliver Wyman, said the slump was down to multiple factors. “Cost is one of the biggest pressures out there. The devaluation of sterling, increased labour costs and business rates will be having an effect. The high-cost operating model businesses that are not offering customers what they want are being squeezed by better quality, or lower-cost rivals.
“We’re also seeing a move towards improvements in productivity, with some businesses positioning themselves for the future, which will leave others less able to compete.”
Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “A strong economy doesn’t see job losses like this. It’s time to invest in British industry and put forward a plan for real jobs that pay a decent wage.
“It’s not rocket science, but such a level of common sense seems to be escaping ministers, who are busy concentrating on backbench Brexit squabbles, and not sorting out the economy.
“And when the government does try to tackle industry issues, it fails to include any voice for workers, giving the impression that their views aren’t legitimate despite working at the coal face in British industries.”